The first settlers in the area of Puye (meaning: pueblo ruin where the rabbits meet) arrived around 900 CE, at a time when pithouses were all the rage. The living was good on the eastern slopes of the Jemez: planting was good and there was plenty of rain and game. Time passed and technology improved. The planting got better and the people began gathering in larger and larger villages.
The actual site at Puye is two sets of cliff dwellings on two terraces of a 200-foot-high volcanic tuff cliff. One set of cliff dwellings is more than a mile long, the other set about 2,100 feet long. On the mesa top are cave dwellings surrounded by a multi-story pueblo ruin. There were ladders everywhere and stairways carved into the soft volcanic tuff.
As a village, Puye did well until the late 1500's when another long drought set in. The people had enough, they moved down the hill several miles and rebuilt closer to the Rio Grande. That's what they were doing when Don Diego de Vargas arrived in 1598.
Today's potters at Santa Clara are still digging clay in some of the areas where the potters of Puye dug. They are still using the same techniques to make and decorate their pottery, too.